A previous post on this blog talked about how public employees may have additional employment rights above and beyond what employees in the private sector enjoy. That post may have left many in the Twin Cities wondering what exactly those additional rights are.
For the most part, employees in Minnesota are employed at will, meaning that they can be fired, demoted, scaled back, laid off, and the like for any reason or no particular reason at all. There are, of course, a few exceptions, such as if an employee has a contract or is covered under a collective bargaining agreement. Likewise, employers may not unlawfully discriminate, and they also have to follow Minnesota’s laws, including anti-retaliation statutes.
Under the law, however, most federal employees actually have a vested legal interest in their jobs once they have them and once any period of probation is complete. This means that, unlike in the private sector, a federal employee is going to have certain rights and protections before her agency can fire, suspend, or demote her. At a minimum, this means that the employee must have a reasonable opportunity to respond to any accusation that she violated a workplace rule before discipline gets enforced.
It is also important to remember that Minnesota, and its various local governments, have a network of special rules that apply to the firing and disciplining of public employees on the state or local level.
These rules are often complicated and can even cause controversy. A public employee who is facing discipline is well-advised to seek out professional counsel in order to be fully informed about his employee rights. An experienced attorney can also help an employee defend these rights.